Number of Met officers could fall by 1,000

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The Independent Online

The number of police officers employed by Britain's largest force could fall by more than 1,000 as it struggles to meet huge cash cuts.

Senior Metropolitan Police officers have drawn up plans to cope with the loss of up to £100 million from its £3.6 billion budget next year.

Recent estimates have suggested there will be 32,137 officers in March, 1,181 fewer than 12 months ago as a result of a recruitment freeze.

Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin has said the force is trying to save money by cutting the cost of IT, buildings and vehicles.

The force also wants to cut property costs by a quarter by swapping traditional police stations for cheaper front counter-style shop fronts.

London Assembly member John Biggs, who chaired a City Hall meeting where the figures were discussed yesterday, called on Mayor Boris Johnson to make his priorities clear.

He said: "We know that Londoners care a great deal about policing as they consistently tell us it is one of their biggest priorities.

"It is always a delicate balancing act between making budget savings and preserving frontline services and there are difficult decisions to be made."

Kit Malthouse, Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) chair, said the figures were "hypothetical" and could change.

He said: "If there are officers going then they will not be on the front line, they will be taken from back office functions. We are trying to put more officers on the front line.

"We aim to maintain the numbers around the 32,000 to 33,000 mark, which I think is about right, and we are certainly still above the number of officers in 2008."

A Met spokesman said: "The Met is facing an extremely challenging economic situation like the whole of the public sector.

"Considering the reduced funding, it would be irresponsible to recruit officers until we know the final budget cuts.

"Until then we are ensuring Londoners are getting the best from the 32,481 officers currently policing the capital."